Federated Wireless Sets Plan for Massive CBRS Band Deployment

FCC application outlines proposal that would include participation from multiple wireless and cable operators, tower companies, wireless ISPs and more than 80 rural carriers across nearly 16,000 deployment sites.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

September 10, 2018

4 Min Read
Federated Wireless Sets Plan for Massive CBRS Band Deployment

Taking a step toward commercial deployment, Federated Wireless has filed an application to the FCC for a big commercial deployment in the shared 3.5GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band with a broad mix of mobile operators, cable operators and wireless ISPs.

Federated Wireless , one of a handful of Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators focused on the emerging, shared CBRS band, submitted its application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today and expects to gain approval in four to six weeks. If all goes to plan, initial deployments outlined in the proposal could get underway by November, said Iyad Tarazi, Federated Wireless's CEO. (See Unlicensed CBRS 4G Service Coming Q4 2018.)

The initial deployment will focus on unlicensed spectrum (General Authorized Access, or GAA) in the CBRS band (the FCC and other government agencies are still ironing out details for licensed parts of the band -- referred to as Priority Access License, or PAL -- that will be auctioned). (See CBRS LTE Gets Branded as 'OnGo'.)

As one of a handful of SAS administrators focused on CBRS, Federated Wireless has developed a spectrum allocation system that will ensure that new users in the band (for licensed and unlicensed access) do not interfere with incumbents such as the US Navy and for some satellite uplink connections.

Tarazi said he is hopeful that Federated Wireless and its partners will get access early on to at least 50MHz of spectrum in coastal areas, 100MHz of capacity in interior parts of the US where incumbents operate, and up to 150MHz in the interior US where no incumbents are present.

"The spectrum is massive, and it's empty, and it's high quality," Tarazi said.

The application outlines participation from 15 wireless operators, cable operators and tower companies, managed service providers, more than 80 rural carriers, and 15 makers of Citizens Broadband Radio Service Devices. The scope of the deployment spans nearly 16,000 sites in 47 states, and Washington, D.C. (Montana, North Dakota and Mississippi are the only states not currently part of that mix). (See CBRS Alliance Touts First Interop and CableLabs to Host First CBRS Alliance Interop .)

Those deployments are also expected to hit on various use cases for the CBRS band, including private LTE networks for various venues such as hotels, shopping malls, sports arenas, restaurants and seaports, in smart city environments, and for MVNO offload. The latter example has been of particular interest to cable operators. (See Altice USA Gears Up for Trio of CBRS Trials.)

Federated Wireless also noted that 55% of the deployments are focused on outdoor environments, 53% will explore new business models, 41% center on some sort of fixed wireless access application, and 14% are for mobile offload or network densification initiatives.

Federated Wireless wouldn't name all of the companies referenced in the proposal to the FCC, but did reference American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT), Charter Communications Inc. , Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and ExteNet Systems. Examples of companies that have previously done trial work with Federated Wireless include Boingo Wireless Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ).

Federated Wireless also announced it's on track to launch an ESC (Environmental Sensing Capability) network for the continental US by Q1 2019. The ESC is a sensor network that will enable Federated Wireless's platform to allocate spectrum and avoid interference with the band's incumbent users.

Ed note: Federated Wireless clarified that the ESC sensor network will be live in time for initial deployments slated for Q4 2018, even as it builds it out further in the early part of next year.

Within 70 miles of the coast, one can't obtain access to the last 100MHz of the 150MHz slice of spectrum in the shared band without having those sensors set up, Tarazi said.

"It's a very big deal," he said, estimating that Federated Wireless's final ESC network will comprise a "few hundred" sensors. Most of those sites are under lease and construction is well underway.

Timed with this week's Mobile World Congress Americas event in Los Angeles, the company also introduced a Certified Professional Installers (CPI) training program that's designed to address the FCC's initial commercial deployment rules that all outdoor CBRS devices are installed by certified people. Federated Wireless said the training modules and curriculum were reviewed and certified by the Wireless Innovation Forum (WinnForum) "in accordance with FCC requirements."

Update:: Federated Wireless clarified that it has not yet received certification from the WinnForum yet, but expects to have approve in time for initial commercial deployments.

Arlington, Va.-based Federated Wireless has raised more than $75 million, and counts Charter, American Tower and Arris among its strategic investors. It also works with more than 20 original equipment manufacturing partners, including Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), Ruckus Networks (part of Arris), SerComm Corp. and Juni, among others.

Examples of SAS companies include Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), Comsearch (part of CommScope Inc. ), Key Bridge LLC, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE).

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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